What is a Freelance Writer?

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

A writer is anyone who puts pen to paper, whether for enjoyment, artistic talent, creative outlet, volunteer work or pay. Paid writers, employed full time by one employer, might work for a newspaper, magazine, advertising business, or any other business which needs a full time writer on staff. A freelance writer is simply a writer who acts as a small business or independent contractor; he sets his own pace, seeks out his own work, and pays no one but himself.

Freelance writers might work for a newspaper.
Freelance writers might work for a newspaper.

A freelance writer might work full time as a writer or have a completely different daytime career. He or she might simply write for fun, jotting down poems, posting online blogs, or trying his hand at short fiction. He or she might be a stay-at-home parent, college student or shut-in. Whatever his choice, the freedom one finds in working this way is part of the appeal.

Many magazines seek to hire freelance writers.
Many magazines seek to hire freelance writers.

There is a large market from which a freelance writer can choose, and the sky is the limit as to what type of genre or how much work a given writer might have at any given time. One whose specialty is fiction might dabble in poetry, short stories or e-books, or might have an ongoing novel in the works. Many publishers will accept fiction but most freelance writers agree it is a much harder market to break into.

Some freelance writers do their writing on a full-time basis, while others have a completely different daytime career.
Some freelance writers do their writing on a full-time basis, while others have a completely different daytime career.

Non-fiction is everywhere, both online and in print: magazine articles, books, advertisements, business proposals, marketing plans, manuals, contracts and web content. Articles might be entertaining, informational, or instructive. A non-fiction freelance writer will have a much better chance of finding work than a one specializing solely in fiction.

A freelance writer might have freedom that a formally employed worker does not, but with that freedom comes much responsibility. Writing is only part of the job. The writer must keep track of his own income and taxes. Money is a constant issue because work is sporadic and always changing. Many publishers communicate clearly with their freelance writers, offering work, keeping set payment schedules and explaining any changes in policy, while other employers might not respond to queries or send payment in a timely manner. Often a brilliant article will be turned down simply because the monthly quota has already been filled.

Freelance writers must also have self-discipline. When not writing, the writer must always be seeking out new leads, opportunities and advertisements for writers. Those in this job must have the fortitude and determination to press on and keep writing.

Freelance writing jobs often allow writers to work from home.
Freelance writing jobs often allow writers to work from home.
Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Paulla is a freelance writer and website editor who currently lives in Maine. Paulla has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University and over 15 years of experience as a freelancer. She relishes the flexibility and consistency of working on wiseGEEK articles, as well as the opportunity to constantly learn something new.

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Discussion Comments


Oasis11: I have to say that places like Elance are not a good place for freelance writers to obtain work. Yes, you have to bid on a job. the lower bid wins. Why would anyone want to work for the lowest they can get. It's great for the company who hires you but bad for the writer. I thought the idea was to make the most money you can. Just a thought.


Oasis11- I know that Writers Weekly also offers a listing of paid freelance writing jobs. They also have a forum where freelance writers can network and exchange ideas.


Comfyshoes- I did not know that. I will have to check that out.

I just wanted to say that sites like Elance offer freelance writing and editing jobs, but you just have to establish your freelance writer rates for each job that you bid for.

It is a bid site, so if your bid is accepted than you are granted the assignment.


Tanja- Well said. I just want to add that many freelance writers also belong to professional organizations that offer additional marketing assistance as well as information on other paying markets where writers can find freelance writing jobs.

For example, the Florida Freelance Writer’s Association offers guidance to its members on how and where to market their work. In addition, they provide networking opportunities as well as print editions of their newsletters.

New writers can join for a $90 annual fee. The Florida Freelance Writers Association also offers legal assistance and even a press identification card.


Freelancers must also pay heed to different spellings for the same word - "labor" and "labour" - and use the fonts and points required by their agents / employers, according to the market for which one is writing. We must also know the difference between 'timely' and 'presently' as used in American English, and British English, and lots of other trivia.

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